JoinCalifornia: Election History for the State of California

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As you'd probably expect, it's the statewide offices (with the highest number of voters) that lead the highest-vote counts in California history. Of these statewide offices, it's most often the federal offices (and particularly in Presidential election years) that receive the highest numbers of votes.

2020 - Joe Biden for President - 11.11 million
2016 - Hillary Clinton for President - 8.75 million votes
2008 - Barack Obama for President - 8.27 million
2018 - Betty Yee for Controller - 8.01 million
2018 - Alex Padilla for Secretary of State - 7.91 million
2012 - Dianne Feinstein for Senate - 7.86 million
2012 - Barack Obama for President - 7.85 million
2018 - Fiona Ma for Treasurer - 7.83 million
2018 - Xavier Becerra for Attorney General - 7.79 million
2018 - Gavin Newsom for Governor - 7.72 million



Another way to evaluate the relative successes of candidates is to compare the total vote counts they receive. The following is a list of the most popular candidates from each of four categories (the statewide category excludes US Senate and the Presidential candidates). The all-time highest vote counts received by a candidate in California in a single election was;

  Candidate Election Vote Count
State Senate
Nancy Skinner (D) 2020 General 404,455 votes
Mark Leno (D) 2012 General
303,241 votes
2000s Mark Leno (D) 2008 General 326,755 votes
Since 1980 Mark Leno (D) 2008 General 326,755 votes
1950-1999 Richard Richards (D) 1958 General 1,409,469 votes
1900-1949 Jack B. Tenney (R) 1946 General 833,565 votes
All Time Richard Richards (R) 1958 General 1,409,469 votes

State Assembly

Buffy Wicks (D) 2020 General 204,108 votes
Tony Thurmond (D) 2016 General
189,530 votes
2000s Ted Gaines (R) 2008 General 166,736 votes
1950-1999 Robert Frazee (R) 1980 General 156,080 votes
1900-1949 Everett G. Burkhalter (D) 1944 General 78,406 votes
All Time Buffy Wicks (D) 2020 General 204,108 votes

House of Representatives
Barbara Lee (D) 2020 General 327,863 votes
Barbara Lee (D) 2016 General 293,117 votes
2000s Henry A. Waxman (D) 2008 General 242,792 votes
1950-1999 Clair W. Burgener (R) 1980 General 299,037 votes
1900-1949 Leland Merritt Ford (R) 1940 General 188,049 votes
All Time Barbara Lee (D) 2020 General 327,863 votes


(Non-Federal) Statewide Offices

Gavin Newsom (D) Governor (2022)
6,470,099 votes
Betty Yee (D) Controller (2018)
8,013,067 votes
2000s A. Schwarzenegger (R) Governor (2006) 4,850,157 votes 
1950-1999 Jesse M. Unruh (D) Treasurer (1986)  5,589,633 votes
1900-1949 Earl Warren (R) Governor (1946) 2,344,542 votes
All Time Betty Yee (D) Controller (2018)
8,013,067 votes

It can also be interesting to see what the lowest votre requirements for a certain office might be. It takes a combination of factors to reach some of these numbers, as in the case of Assemblyman Fuentes, who got just over 50% of the votes in an election with low turn-out (10.24%) in an Assembly district with the second lowest voter registration rates in the state (only AD-46 had fewer voters).

  Candidate Election Vote Count
State Senate
Sydney Kamlager (D) 2021 Special 48,483 votes
Isadore Hall III (D) 2014 Special 17,951 votes
2000s Gloria Romero (D) 2001 Special  26,959 votes 
1950-1999 Stephen P. Teale (D) 1953 Special 2,100 votes
1900-1949 Charles Brown (D) 1942 General 2,509 votes
All Time Incomplete data Incomplete data Incomplete data

State Assembly
Isaac G. Bryan (D)
2021 Special
21,388 votes
Freddie Rodriguez (D) 2013 Special
7,630 votes
2000s Felipe Fuentes (D) 2007 Special 5,819 votes
1950-1999 George A. Willson (W/I) 1958 Special 905 votes
1900-1949 James Slaven (R) 1904 General 804 votes
All Time Incomplete data Incomplete data Incomplete data

House of Representatives
Vince Fong (R) 2024 Special 50,568 votes
Jimmy Gomez (D) 2017 Special
25,569 votes
2000s Judy Chu (D) 2009 Special 15,238 votes
1950-1999 J. Millender-McDonald (D) 1996 Special 13,868 votes
1900-1949 Julius Kahn (R) 1906 General 5,678 votes
All Time Milton S. Latham (Ind.) 1852 General 1,843 votes

(Non-Federal) Statewide Offices
Tony Thurmond (NP) SPI (2022) 5,681,315 votes
Tom Torlakson (D) SPI (2014)
3,167,212 votes
2000s Steve Westly (D) Controller (2002) 3,157,757 votes
1950-1999 Bill Honig (NP) SPI (1990) 2,554,143 votes
1900-1949 Horace A. Johnson (Pro.) Controller (1918) 103,039 votes
All Time John G. Marvin (NP) SPI (1850) 3,823 votes